HL Deb 24 October 1945 vol 137 cc468-92

Debate resumed on Lord Hankey's Motion.


My Lords, I feel, now that we have heard the very satisfactory statement by the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that there is little more to be said, except to mention certain points which I do not think have been touched on yet. I am sorry the noble Viscount is not here at the moment because I wanted to have the opportunity, which is the first I have had, of congratulating him on the very high office he now occupies in your Lordships' House. I recollect that when this matter was introduced to this House by myself last February he showed great sympathy towards the ideas then expressed in the debate, and supported us most strongly.

Now the word "nutritional" is mentioned in this Motion, and we know perfectly well that proper nutrition does bring health. It is probable—in fact, I think it is undoubted—that within nutrition the question of bread looms very largely. Bread is, in varying degrees, the staple food of all our people. It is interesting how those of us who have been working together on this subject now for some time are criticized. We are called "cranks." The other day some wiseacre said: "I like this white bread because it is clean. It must be clean because it is white." I mention that with great respect to the Lord Chancellor's gown. It seems to me that the inference to be drawn from what he said was that, because wholemeal or high-extraction bread was not white, therefore it was not clean. That is the sort of ridiculous statement in the shape of propaganda that is going about.

I heard just now as I walked out, the question: "Why do you wish us to be deprived of white bread?" We have over and over again emphasized that we do not desire to stop anybody eating any sort of bread or anything else he wishes, but what we do want is that those of us who wish to have bread which, in our view, is the best for the health of the people, shall have an opportunity of buying it. I mentioned last February—and I do not want to repeat too much of what I said then—that wherever I go I try to obtain this bread. I occasionally find some baker who makes it, but unless I am in his shop very early I have no chance at all of buying any. What I want to see, and what we all want to see, is that this other bread—what we look upon as the real bread, which does bring health and strength to people—should be available for all those who want it.

Then, in particular, I would like the Government, if they would, to consider, wherever they feed the children, and wherever bread is supplied for that purpose, that the highest extraction bread should be supplied. We hear a great deal about this roughage question. I asked my noble friend Lord Horder, some considerable time ago, what roughage meant. He said that roughage was got from meal which is coarsely ground. I get my meal from a particular mill. It is 100 per cent. extraction, but it is very finely ground, and there is no roughage in it at all. Therefore, to talk about roughage as detrimental to this wholemeal 100 per cent., is just nonsense, as I know from personal experience, and as does my family, who also eat it.

There is one suggestion I want to make to the Government. If they will look up the records, I think they will find that, in the last few years, a great many of the old-fashioned stone-grinding mills have applied for licences to start up again, and I think they will find that a very small number has been granted licences. I feel that there we might get an opportunity of starting up some of these old mills throughout the country, which there is a desire to do. An interesting thing has just happened. A friend of mine, who is very interested in this question, has written to me to say that a certain firm here are producing a small mill that one can have in one's house. It will work either through a power plug in the wall or by hand. It is quite cheap, and I am looking forward to the day, when, perhaps, the housewife will give up the tin opener, to a certain extent, and employ her time in becoming her own miller, and indeed, her own baker, because I am sure her children will benefit enormously therefrom.

I am going to make an appeal which I hope will get to the right quarter. We all know that, if we get our way and the nation turns to this high extraction bread, it will interfere with a great deal of business in the milling industry. I make the strongest possible appeal to the millers of this country that, instead of rather taking the view—that which, I think, was mentioned in the speech of my noble friend Lord Hankey—that their job was to supply the people with what they thought they liked, they should really get down to it, and see if they cannot produce, in a satisfactory form, a palatable and satisfactory flour which is of high extraction, instead of what, to all of us, is this very unsatisfactory starchy stuff. Let us consider this from a slightly diffferent angle. We are told that our bodies are composed of water, potash, iron and phosphates. But there is something else in these bodies of ours which gives us life and which cannot be defined, and so there is in everything that produces life. I am told by my friends the scientists, that there are these vitamins, plenty of them, and many yet to be discovered; and that there are any number of trace elements, which they know are there. So, my Lords, is it not justifiable to think how dangerous it must be to interfere with nature's products in the shape of the grain?

To turn for a moment to the question of the hospitals, I, as many of your Lordships do, no doubt, visit King Edward's Hospital as a layman. When I visited one of our children's hospitals—I will not mention the name—which has a convales- cent home in the country, I saw some terrible sights there. There were little children, of not more than six or seven years of age, with arthritis. When you see that sort of thing, you ask yourself what is wrong; why is this happening? It brings one back all the time to the question of diet nutrition, to feeding generally, not only of the children themselves, but of the mothers before them. Therefore I do hope, from what my noble friend Lord Addison said, that this matter is really going to be taken up very seriously.

I am not going to say anything more except to report to you what was said to me only the day before yesterday by a friend of mine in Edinburgh, who is one of the great men on the subject of blood transfusion. He wrote to me and gave me a lot of other details. His figures entirely corroborate what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, says about the depreciation in the amount of various vitamins and iron, and so on, in the bread since the reduction in the extraction. The following is what my friend in Edinburgh said about blood transfusion: In previous years, the transfusion service here"— that is in Edinburgh— has found that the number of blood donors rejected because of low hæmoglobin levels, decreased in the early spring. This year, instead of a decrease, there has been an increase in the number of rejections necessary"— for this reason that I mentioned. The decrease was particularly marked when the 85 per cent. extraction flour was originally introduced. We anticipated that something would happen fairly soon as a result of this lowering of the extraction rate, and here it is; it has happened already with regard to this particular matter. Bread may have accounted for some of the other things mentioned by my noble friend, but there may have been other causes. When we find, however, that since the extraction rate has been reduced these very significant things have happened, we are bound to take notice of the fact.

That is all that I have to say, except that I hope that the Government, having made this very satisfactory statement to-day, will get on with the job, because I am sure that all noble Lords who have anything to do with the health of the people, with hospitals and so on, are very perturbed to see the increase in general sickness throughout the whole country. I feel sure that those of us who have spoken to-day are of opinion that enormous benefit can be derived from improved nutrition and in particular from a better quality and a higher extraction bread. I support the Resolution.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, those of us who have supported, and are supporting, Lord Hankey's Resolution are, as my noble friend Lord Teviot has just said, greatly encouraged by what the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has said in accepting so generously and in such enthusiastic terms, if one may say so, the Resolution moved by Lord Hankey. I should like to put before your Lordships a few points in this connexion which perhaps have not been specifically emphasized to-day. This Resolution is in two parts; it contains the general and the particular, a major and a minor premise. I should like to say a word about the first or general part of the Resolution first of all.

Now that this Resolution has been accepted by the Government, there are several of His Majesty's Ministers who will be directly concerned in following it; primarily the Minister of Food, but also the Ministers of Health and Agriculture. Finance and economics may come into the picture too, and one can but hope and believe that the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day, when we are striving to buy as little as possible abroad and also to avoid the use of shipping space as much as possible, will produce a state of affairs which will not be in opposition to the policy in question.

With regard to the agricultural considerations, I should like to call attention to the fact that there is evidence to show that certain essential ingredients in foodstuffs are adversely affected by the methods by which they are grown as well as by the methods by which they are processed. Our achievements in agriculture, as in many other directions, are too often gauged by us in terms of quantity rather than quality. I feel that in these matters we should not rely too much on size and bulk, but rather on the qualities which these products contain. With that end in view, we should be guided more by biological tests than by chemical and other physical tests. After all, it is the feeding quality as it affects man and beast which counts. I think that there is a deep scientific basis for the old proverb that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The bulk of our agricultural produce is undoubtedly increased by the methods which are now popular, and which are advocated by the Government and by our agricultural colleges; but in the minds of many there are grave doubts whether these methods now in use do produce foodstuffs of the best quality. Another matter which comes into our purview here is the use of dyestuffs. I would only refer to such things as margarine, which tries to lock like butter by being dyed yellow and kippers, that try to look as if they had been very adequately smoked when in potent of fact they are dyed; and dyes are used which we are not at all sure may not be injurious to health, although that may never have been proved.

Corning now to the minor premise and to this question of bread, I should like to support the plea which has been made by my noble friend Lord Teviot, that natural wholemeal bread should be readily available. Those of us who have tried to buy it know that it is most difficult to buy wholemeal bread; in fact, it has become a luxury article. Surely white bread should be a luxury article, and not a bread which we know contains all that it should contain. In connexion with specifications of the content of bread, which we are glad to hear we are going to see more of in future, I notice that we get fewer details given us in the Ministry of Food report as to these various small but essential elements. I should like to refer to vitamin E. In Sir Jack Drummond's book The Englishman's Food, which has been referred to already in this debate, he says: It has now been discovered that the type of sterility clue to vitamin E deficiency is commoner in women in England than had been suspected. This is not surprising when one beats in mind that the best sources of the vitamin are wheat germ and green vegetables and that large numbers of the poorer people to-thy live on diets consisting chiefly of white bread (which does not contain the germ)"— that is, the old pre-war white bread— aid containing very small amounts of green vegetables or salads. That was written just before the war, but I see no reason why it should not still be relevant. When we get these specifications, I hope that the Government will see that they contain all the details which they ought to contain.

With regard to the two successive reductions in the extraction rate which. Lord Hankey has described so well to us, I should like to support him by saying that from the figures to which he referred, and possibly from others, I have been assured by a most competent expert that in point of fact the extraction rate to-day is not higher than 78 per cent. When we are talking, therefore, about a certain line which shall not be crossed, I hope in future we may be assured that when a figure is mentioned we can take it as a real one.

There are two policies which His Majesty's Government may in their wisdom be inclined to follow: a short-term policy, which is the one referred to mainly to-day, and a long-term policy. The long-term policy should, I suggest, tend to educate the people of this country to a better understanding of matters of nutrition and diet. But in the present circumstances, when food controls are still necessary, the period during which they may continue to be necessary is the period which I feel should set the limit to the short-term policy. As long as the Government have the responsibility, or assume the responsibility, of controlling foodstuffs, then there is something to be said for arbitrarily fixing the specification of the bread which is to be commonly provided.

I would urge that the bulk of the flour which is to be provided during this period—that is the short-term period—should be of a high nutritional value. At the same time, I maintain that every opportunity should be given to millers, to bakers and to all concerned to provide sufficient wholemeal bread to meet the demand. In point of fact, that is not the case at the moment. Also, although I am a strong supporter of wholemeal bread, I would suggest that white flour might be provided in small quantities for special purposes, but rationed if necessary. This, of course, would inflict no hardship. If there is going to be a luxury article in the way of bread let it be white bread, and let the other breads which are important nutritional breads be in full supply for those who want them, either in the proportion of extraction which the Government decide, and according to the specification to be decided, or in their natural 100 per cent. form.

Just one word as to the long-term policy. As it might cover the proper education of the people of this country in matters of nutrition, may I be allowed to refer to another country where the standard in nutrition, before the war, was exceptionally high, and where every kind of foodstuff of good quality, every kind of bread, was most readily obtainable? That country was Norway. Through the kindness of officials of the Royal Norwegian Government, who were resident here during the war, I have been able to get some particulars showing how this was achieved. To put it as shortly as possible this was how it was done. The milling industry, which was partly State controlled and, partly run by private enterprise, was allowed to produce whatever kind of bread it liked and to supply the popular demand. At the same time, medical and scientific men of the country embarked upon a programme of education, through the Press, by means of public meetings and in every other way possible, whereby, over a long period—I am told that it took ten years—the public were taught what was good to eat. Automatically through this system of education, which had the blessing of the Governments of the time, the public came to ask more and more for what they wanted and what, at the same time, was good for them. Through this a proper condition of affairs was achieved in which no kind of coercion and no kind of Government control was necessary. I would urge on His Majesty's Government that there should be no attempt to force the people of this country to eat any particular kind of bread, but rather that we should produce the best that is possible alongside what they may fancy at the moment, and, in course of time, surely enough, if the facts are put on the table, and if the truth is allowed to become known, the people of this country will choose what is good for them.

I will not say any more on this subject now, as much has already been said upon it, but those of us who have this matter at heart look forward with confidence to the results of the steps which His Majesty's Government have told us they are about to take and to the day when, through a better understanding of these matters, not only will all kinds of health-giving and natural foodstuffs be available for those who want them, but the people of Great Britain will ask for them because they know that they are right things to eat.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I gladly join with those of your Lordships who have already spoken in this debate in warmly supporting my noble friend Lord Hankey's Resolution. We owe him a deep debt of gratitude for the pertinacity he has ever shown in this matter. He has never given up the fight for high extraction bread. My noble friend asked your Lordships to support him in his endeavour to persuade His Majesty's Government to go back to nothing under 85 per cent. extraction. This will be but a step towards what my noble friend Lord Horder calls the target at which we are aiming—namely, 100 per cent. We are deeply grateful to the noble Viscount who leads your Lordships' House for the words of encouragement which he has uttered to-clay and for the fact that this important report, to which he has referred, is about to be published.

Your Lordships have listened to a number of very interesting speeches, and I would refer those who would like to have more detail to that excellent little article which has already been mentioned by Lord Hankey, "The Political Loaf," which was printed in the British Medical Journal on March 17. I do not take that journal myself, but I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the article in question from my noble friend who has just spoken. Possibly others of your Lordships may have been equally favoured. Of all the Motions submitted to your Lordships, surely none could be more urgent than this which vitally affects the national health. May I just recount a few facts to your Lordships which came to my attention during the war when meeting a number of the leaders of the medical side of the two Services in connexion with a matter which had come up for discussion in your Lordships' House. We had a meeting and while we were waiting for a certain document to be typed, I took the opportunity of asking the medical experts gathered round what were the main difficulties they experienced with the young people of both sexes who were joining up. With one voice they said "teeth," and questioned as to the reason for bad teeth or for no teeth at all, they said with equal unanimity "bread and sugar." I have received in the intervening period from these men, through whose hands countless thousands pass, a dissertation on the evil; of poor bread, and not only too much sugar, but a lack of the pure product which the Empire is capable of producing in such large quantities.

Perhaps some of your Lordships may have read that official but horrific report on teeth by my noble friend Lord Teviot. It gives more than ample support to the views of the medical men whom I had the pleasure of meeting on the occasion to which I have just referred. A unique illustration of the importance of right feeding on general health comes from St. Columba's College, near Dublin. This college, founded nearly 100 years ago by Dr. Sewell, of Exeter College, Oxford, was founded with the object of being self-supporting. There is a farm of several hundred acres and a large part of the work is done by the boys out of school hours and as an enthusiastic spare-time activity. The land is manured with natural humus; nothing else is used; and so the vitamin content and general nutritional value of the products of this land is the highest obtainable. Bread is made from 100 per cent. extraction flour ground from wheat grown on the farm and the average daily consumption of calories per head is around 4,000. This all reflects in the mo at remarkable way on the general health of the boys, of whom there are some 150 in this community. Dental health is very good indeed, and in fact there is an entire absence of caries which would almost make it possible for these boys to compete successfully with the boys, of Tristan da Cunha, which is the one bright spot in the British dental world, as your Lordships are aware. Talking of islands, I might refer to the islands on the west coast of Scotland, which until fairly recently never knew and never required a dentist. Now one of these islands gives full-time employment to dentists and the reason for that is the trouble arising in teeth from poor bread. In connexion with the experiment at St. Columba's, there is a school not very far from London which is doing the same thing.

As has been illustrated by other speakers, a growing number of us want to get brown bread. The great problem is how to get it. Members of His Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House have often told me of their personal difficulties in getting brown bread and have asked me how to overcome them. I suggest that those who wish to obtain good brown bread, if not 100 per cent. extraction at least something near to it, meet so many obstacles which the majority of them have neither the time nor the energy to overcome. My noble friend Lord Glentanar, who preceded me in this debate, and I come from the same part of Scotland and we strive to obtain for our households good bread and spurn the insipid compound which masquerades as "the staff of life." My noble friend, more able than I in these things, has discovered a small co-operative bakery in Ballater on Deeside, and through his introduction I have been able to obtain a first-class wholemeal bread of something like over 90 per cent. extraction from this bakery, which is forty miles from my home. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Teviot has had similar difficulty himself.

But that is not enough. I have taken to heart Lord Teviot's suggestion and obtained and installed a small hand-powered mill into which I feed wheat grown on our own land from which we make bread and oats which produce oat cakes. Having no electric power the mill is turned by hand. I have taken the opportunity of bringing to your Lordships' House, or rather to the tea room, a sample of the bread I have baked, and I shall be pleased to regale those of your Lordships who have participated in the debate and helped Lord Hankey in achieving his object. I mentioned this matter to that distinguished expert, Sir John Orr, and he said he would like to come over and borrow my mill. I said, "Gladly, but have you not got one of your own?" "No," he replied, "I make it with a coffee-grinding machine and it takes too long to produce enough flour."

The whole question is, however, a vital one and as a people we are facing the greatest task with which we have ever been faced. That we will go through with it and achieve the apparently impossible is certainly not in doubt, but if we are to do so we must see to it that we make available good food produced from humus-fed soil and not processed in such a manner as to lessen, if not to destroy, its dietetic value. We are faced to-day with serious trouble in those industries which demand maximum physical output. Those troubles are largely psychological and are the result of long periods of living on denatured and processed foods. Serve out good food—good in the dietetic sense—and within twelve months Britain would commence to be physically reborn, and to-day's industrial crises, which come and go, would but seldom arise. Surely our motto should be to get away from murdered food taken from poisoned soil.

In the eighteenth century Scotland was harried by Englishmen of one kind or another. There was one who was very well known, General Wade, who carried fire and sword to our land and tried, un- successfully, to quell the spirit of our Highland forbears. Among other things he built many military roads and there is one which runs across the hills from the head of Strathdon to Tomintoul. In the middle of it you may find a stone on which this curious phrase is engraved: "If you had seen this road before it was made you would go down on your knees and bless General Wade." What a ridiculous idea! Obviously it is the invention of some Englishmen, because no Scotsman has ever gone down on his knees to an Englishman. But all rules may have an exception and when my noble English friend is, as I feel sure he will be, successful, all these Scots will figuratively do that which we would never do for General Wade.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House. It is true that I have had some practice in another place but if I fall into any error of address—if when turning to the right or left, trying to think of a word, I say "Mr. Speaker" to fill in the gap—I hope I may be forgiven. I hope that your Lordships will think it right and proper that one who held the very important and responsible office of Minister of Food at the time when this new loaf was introduced should have the opportunity of explaining why he moved the Government of that time to take that step.

I had the opportunity from the steps of the Throne of listening to the debate in your Lordships' House last February and although, of course, I was not in a position to take any active part, I was well represented by my noble friend Lord Woolton, who had been my predecessor at the Ministry of Food. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said there were most remarkable repercussions of that debate through the country as a whole. I should think that of all Government Departments which are closely in touch with feeling in the country, the Ministry of Food is preeminent. It has a vast organization, with food control committees right through the country, all of whom can communicate with the Ministry at any time, and the chairman of each committee has access to the Minister himself. Moreover, if anything goes wrong in the matter of food it is certain to get into every newspaper. I may say, however, that the repercussions of the debate in your Lordships' House last February did not appear to penetrate down the corridor to the other place because no member of the House of Commons—and some of them are fairly closely in touch with opinion in the country—ever raised this matter in that House or gave me an opportunity of dealing with it there.

The position was this. When I arrived at the Ministry of Food I found that the Cereals Research Station at St. Albans was doing most valuable experimental work on the extraction rate of flour. That station was set up by the millers, and with their full concurrence it was taken over by the Ministry of Food in the early days of the war. It was run as a Ministry of Food concern under the immediate direction of Dr. Moran, a very able scientist and nutritionist, who has given great service to the Ministry of Food, and under the general supervision of Sir Jack Drummond, who I think has done more for the good feeding of the people of this country during the days of the war than any other man I know, and who has also recently, I am glad to say, been of considerable assistance to the countries of liberated Europe because he went to the Continent to advise our Dutch and other friends as to what they should do in the conditions in which they found their people when liberated.

I also found that my noble friend Lord Woolton, my predecessor, had taken a personal interest in these experiments. I went to the station to see them for myself, taking with me my noble friend Lord Horder, who was chief medical adviser to the Minister of Food. The staff were I obviously very keen, obviously very good, and their experiments had already shown that they could preserve practically the same nutritional qualities with a lower extraction rate than the then existing rate of 85 per cent. It was thought, before these experiments Lock place, that vitamin B1 was associated with the whole germ of the wheat, but from these experiments it was found that that vitamin and indeed most of the others were really highly concentrated in part only of the germ and that this particular, fraction of the wheat could be segregated during milling in such a manner as to ensure that by far the greater part of it went into the flour. That was the extent of the new discovery made by this valuable research, and on that report naturally one wanted to sec that the people got the benefit of these experiments. The extraction rate, as was announced at the time, was raised to 85 per cent. as a war-time necessity. It was primarily introduced because of shipping difficulties, and although before introducing it my predecessor had naturally consulted his nutritional advisers as to whether it was a good extraction rate for the loaf, the primary reason for it, as he always said, was shipping necessity. Having had this report and having taken advice from my nutritionists in the Ministry, I took the step—here my noble friend Lord Hankey was perhaps not quite fully informed—of having these experiments, which had been successful in the research station, tried out on a commercial basis at a mill. That was before any report was asked for from any Government Committee.


I ought to say that I took my information from Lord Woolton's speech.


I have forgotten whit exactly my noble friend Lord Woolton said, but I was the man who actually gave the instructions and saw the reports from the mill, and I know that was done very early. I hope my noble friend Lord Hankey will take that from me.




This mill produced a flour at the 80 per cent. extraction rate with results equally as good as those at the research station. Then, naturally, as the Minister of Food has nutritional advisers all round him, they were asked for their advice. It would be a foolish thing, when the Minister is considering the extraction rate, to embark on any change without consulting his nutritional advisers. The Standing Committee at the Ministry on nutrition problems was the appropriate body and was consulted. The members of it were asked to advise on the effect of lowering the rate from 85 to 80 per cent. as well as on lowering it to only 82½. When I received their advice, I submitted proposals to my colleagues in the Government and the change was eventually made. I myself very much wanted not to take two bites at this cherry, which I appreciated some of your Lordships and others might think to be rather a sour one, and I would much have preferred to have gone direct from the 85 per cent. down to the 80 per cent., which was the policy approved before ever we descended to 82½ per cent. But in the technical process of turning the mills over, so as to be able to work this new process and secure that this part of the germ really reached the flour and did not go into the offal, it was necessary, for technical reasons, to go from 85 to 82½ per cent. at first, and then take the second step at a later stage.

My noble friend Lord Teviot has said, both to-day and on the last occasion, that we do not want to prevent anyone eating any bread he wishes, and my noble friend Lord Glentanar followed in very much the same words. But that is what we are doing. We are doing that by the 80 per cent. extraction order and by the 85 per cent. extraction order. While that old statutory rule and order was on the Statute Book it was illegal to mill flour at a lesser extraction rate than 85 per cent., and it is now illegal to mill flour at a lesser rate than 80 per cent.; so anybody now who wants to get 70 or 72 per cent. bread cannot get it, because we are forbidding it by statutory rule and order.

When you are coming towards the end of a war and when you (as indeed I did, as Minister of Food) want to sec that some of these great nutritional advances that that Ministry made during the war remain with us in time of peace—when that is your ambition, it is no good holding on too long to the kind of bread that people do not really like, otherwise you will get pressure not only from the millers but from the bakers and the general populace as well. That is a very vital factor that any Minister of Food has to consider when he is deciding what is to be the best bread for the people.


May I correct the noble Lord? What I said was that I think I am right in saying that during the first period, the short-term period, the Government were bound to maintain bulk production of whatever they thought best, but in the long-term period we look for freedom.


I am sorry if I misquoted the noble Lord, because I take it he expresses what he meant and I am afraid I did not take down all his words. At any rate, the position is that a lot of people think that the high extraction rate is popular. From the details which the noble Lord read out of the results of the feeding in the Channel Islands under the German occupation, I could not think of any much more uncomfortable position in which to live than that complete reversal of constipation which was described in those documents.


For three months only.


I can assure your Lordships that whatever a lot of sedentary workers may think—and perhaps we in this House can put ourselves into that category—a lot of manual workers are not at all enamoured of high extraction flour, and that certainly applies to the miners. The right course for any administrator to take is to try and get the best average loaf that he can, especially when, as at the present time, it is going to be enforced by statutory rule and order. So it came about that it was decided to introduce this 80 per cent. extraction rather than the 85 per cent. According to reports made to me, there was not any appreciable falling off in the nutritional value to the people, taking into account, as you must always do, that people do not live on bread alone, and other things are provided for them.

There is not the slightest doubt that the 80 per cent. flour keeps far better. It is not for nothing that the Royal Navy has insisted throughout the whole war that whatever the rate of extraction of the flour, it shall have the real white flour in the ship's stores of every ship commissioned for sea service. And although the noble Lord is shaking his head in dissent, I can tell him, from my experience as Minister of Food, that the 85 per cent. extraction flour does not keep as well as the 80 per cent. extraction flour. The latter flour certainly bakes better. At the Ministry's Cereal Research Station at St. Albans we collected loaves from practically every bakery in the country in succession, so that they could be tested, and I was quite appalled when I went round that research station to see how many bad loaves there were. There was not the slightest doubt that there was a tendency, with the 85 per cent. extraction flour, for a waste of bread, which either went to people's chickens or was wasted entirely, which was not a good idea from the point of view of the Minister of Food.


Can the noble Lord say after how many days this bread deteriorates?


It depended on how it was baked. From some bakeries it would hardly last for 12 or 24 hours. You found thoroughly bad loaves from some of those bakeries, and there is not the slightest doubt that this bread did not keep as well as the 80 per cent. extraction bread, which certainly makes better cakes. You could not make a decent piece of toast with the 85 per cent. bread.


You can make the best toast with 100 per cent. bread.


There, evidently, we disagree, but, at any rate, whatever anybody may say, we got a large number of letters at the Ministry of Food welcoming the change, and very few, indeed, deploring it. It also gave me an extra 325,000 tons of offal in order to implement the policy of more pigs and more poultry. I knew we should be short of meat and fats, and one of the most valuable animals for producing meat and fats is undoubtedly the pig. We could not have gone on with that policy unless I had had this windfall, and unless I had given full weight to the pigs. I thought there was some sense in the Prodigal Son coming home to a fatted calf when he had been living on husks for some time, as he had been living. I still believe it better to extract the germ and the better part of the wheat grain for the human being. A certain percentage of the husky part is in the 85 per cent. extraction loaf.

This change to the 80 per cent. was only a prelude to another step which I was determined to take, and to which the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, referred this afternoon. I should like to thank him—perhaps someone will convey my thanks to him—for the kind things he said about me, and about the setting up of this post-war loaf conference. I think it was a good thing to do. There was a great risk that we should not get the nutritionists and the millers to sit down together. A number of the nutritionists think that the millers are crooks, and a number of the millers think that the nutritionists are cranks. At any rate, we did succeed in getting a very representative conference together.

I remember talking it over with the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Food, Sir Henry French. Perhaps, at this period, as he has just retired from that office, I might pay my tribute to the wonderful work Sir Henry has done in feeding the people of this country ever since the early days of the War Food Plans Department and right up to the time he retired in December last. Sir Henry asked me of whom I was thinking as chairman. I told him that I knew of only one man who could do that job, and that, if he would accept it, he was for it. So he became chairman of this conference, and I was delighted to hear from the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, that the conference has made a unanimous recommendation on the basis, as I understand it, that our present loaf shall contain those qualities and those quantities of the different specified nutrients. They are quite right not to worry with specific extraction rates, but with specifications of what is in the loaf. I am very glad of that. I believe, quite frankly, that the steps I took in reducing the rate to 80 per cent., and then to getting this conference to meet and getting all parties in agreement, will secure us from going back to the 70 or 72 per cent. loaf, which we might well have done if those steps had not been taken. I believe the present loaf contains all the qualities necessary for good nutrition, and I think it is welcomed by the people. I am glad it has turned out so well.

At the time I embarked upon it, I remember it being suggested at the Ministry, that it might be called the "Llewellin Loaf"—a nice alliteration—but I must say that the only thing I thought my predecessor had done wrong was to call a dish the "Woolton Pie," after himself.


I am so sorry to intervene, but I must be exonerated from that.


At any rate, he looks upon that article of food with the same kind of horror as I do. On the other hand, I believe it will be shown that during the next twelve months we shall have taken steps to see we get a good loaf in this country—I hope without controversy—because I hope this conference, by getting all the leaders of the different people concerned together, will settle this matter. They will go forward together to see what improvements can be made, and whether they can be adopted. They can go ahead, and we can assure the people of this country that the most important article in their diet is one that will always contain good nutritious qualities. I am, of course, fully in accord with the terms of the Motion so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I would only say to him that his Motion incorporates what has been the policy of the Ministry of Food under my predecessors, under myself, and, I am certain, under my right honourable friend who now presides there.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, on your behalf as well as my own, I should like to offer a warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Llewellin, who has just addressed the House, and express the hope that he will, on many occasions in the future, participate usefully in our debates. I may frankly say that, for my part, I find myself very far from being in complete agreement with the views which he has just expressed, and I cannot help thinking that if he had spoken earlier in this debate, some of the speeches to which we have listened would have been very different from what, in fact, they were. First of all, I should like to express my satisfaction that the Government have accepted the terms of this Motion, so ably submitted to this House by my noble friend Lord Hankey. I do not quite know what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in speaking for the Government, exactly meant when he said that the present extraction would be maintained. Does that mean maintained as a minimum, or does it mean that, in the light of greater knowledge and human experience, the present rate of extraction might be increased? I venture to hope that that is the right interpretation of the statement which the noble Viscount has made.

The noble Viscount made a very interesting announcement which, so far, has not been commented upon, to the effect that the Ministry of Food, which, of course, was set up in each of the wars as a war-time Department, is, in fact, going to be perpetuated in the years of peace. I, for my part, warmly welcome that statement. I welcome it for two reasons, because I feel that the Ministry of Food is badly wanted, first, to secure a higher standard of nutrition throughout the whole community, and, secondly—and I feel very strongly about this—to hold the balance evenly and fairly between the producers and the consumers of food, and thus secure a constant supply of essential foods at a reasonable cost.

I turn for a moment to the speech to which we have just listened. There was one statement in that speech which I think would have quite materially altered the attitude of some of us in the debate on February 28, but which was news to me, and probably at that time was wholly Un-known to members of this House. I refer to the statement that at the research station at St. Albans a method had been discovered for the segregation of the germ of the wheat grain, which, as my noble friend has pointed out, contains the most concentrated elements of nutrition in the grain, and that it had been found possible to segregate that germ without substantially increasing, or indeed maintaining, the high extraction rate. That does meet some of the arguments which have been put forward in these two debates to some extent, but by no means wholly.

Let me say in passing that I should like warmly to endorse the tributes which have been paid by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and by Lord Llewellin, to the very valuable services of Sir Henry French. Sir Henry French served under me many years ago when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the first Ministry of Food, and I recognize fully his great ability and assiduity. I was also glad to hear the very high tributes paid to Sir Jack Drummond, the earliest and greatest prophet of the value of vitamins. I can remember presiding over a joint conference of the Agricultural and Medical Sections of the British Association at which Sir Jack Drummond (then Dr. Drummond) was the chief speaker. At that conference he had no support from the medical practitioners of this country—absolutely none—but he was right, and the doctors were eventually convinced of the value and the truth of the gospel which he preached.

My noble friend who has just spoken emphasized quite truly that at the time when the 85 per cent. extraction of the wheat grain was decided upon, there was a serious shortage of shipping. He might also have added that there was a prospective serious shortage of wheat and other essential foods. But surely we are faced to-day with at least as great a shortage of shipping, and an even greater prospective shortage of food, taking the world as a whole? We are faced with a condition of hunger and starvation on the Continent of Europe absolutely without parallel in human history. We have all to sacrifice something to enable people on the Continent to be adequately fed.


My Lords, if the noble Viscount will permit me to intervene, I know of no shortage of wheat in the world. I think that it is one of the commodities of which we have an ample supply. We are, of course, short of fats and sugar and meat. If we do not get these offals here out of this extraction rate of wheat, we shall have to ship something else for the pigs and the poultry, or our bacon ration and our egg ration will have to be cut.


My Lords, the obvious answer to that is that you cannot keep wheat in a watertight compartment and treat it by itself as the source of the starchy food or carbohydrates which are essential to a well-balanced ration for all human beings. I would say in passing that although there can be no doubt that there is a considerable and well-maintained output of wheat in various overseas countries, we have to face the fact that a large part of Russia and of Germany and of certain countries overrun by the enemy are under-producing wheat to-day simply because their lands have been overrun. What I want to point out to my noble friend—and I speak with some expert knowledge of the subject, it having been the chief study of my life—is that you have, when considering whether there is or is not an adequacy of carbohydrate foods, to take into account all sorts of other foods, such as lice and potatoes. Incidentally, we in this country, unfortunately, consume polished rice, and we also, unfortunately, as a rule consume potatoes that are not cooked in their jackets; and in each case we lose the very factor which we want to maintain in our loaves. We are losing that non-starchy factor which represents, to a very large extent, the nutritive value of the products in question.

The noble Lord referred just now to the miners. I live amongst miners and I know to a large extent what their food requirements are. It is open to question whether the difficulties that we are having in the matter of an adequate output of coal are not to some extent due to the fact that the miners prefer white bread as a rule, and also that their main protein favourite is pig-food—bacon, and particularly lean bacon. The miner insists on having bacon which does not "run away in the pan," as his wife puts it—very lean bacon. He has been unable to get it during the war period. Whether you speak of the Navy or of the miners or of any particular section of the body politic, you have to remember that in most cases they have something or other in the form of protein food to provide them with a balanced ration. It is on behalf of the very poorest of the poor that we claim for people who have not this opportunity of having a well-balanced ration made good from other sources, that they should have as nutritious a loaf as we can possibly provide for them.

The two most important foods of all are bread and milk. We had a debate on bread on February 28 and a debate on milk on April 11. They are the two great priority foods, as all experts will admit. When we asked for whole milk, pure and unadulterated, and plenty of it, there were no dissentients in this House—cow-keeper, doctor, scientist and Government all concurred. When we asked for as far as possible a wholemeal loaf, pure, unadulterated and nutritious, again we were all agreed, except for the spokesman for the Government, the Government being in this connexion the custodian of national welfare and well-being. We listened then for convincing reasons for the reduction in the extraction rate, and we did not receive them. It is perfectly true that since then a very valuable conference has taken place. I do not myself know the terms of its report. We have had extracts from it read, but if we had all been furnished with the terms of the report we should be better equipped to discuss this question to-day.

I do say that, since that last debate took place, there has been no authoritative medical testimony in favour of a reversion to the white loaf bereft of its protein, its fat, its iron, its calcium and its precious Vitamin B. The present supply of whole milk is inadequate, and all health authorities admit that it will remain so, at any rate for some considerable time to come, until we have more dairy cattle and fewer diseased cattle. It is, therefore, all the more necessary that our nation's bread shall not be robbed of its most nutritive elements either to please a great and wealthy industry—and I am delighted to hear from Lord Hankey to-day that that industry is prepared to consider not only what is demanded by the public but also what is in the best interests of the public—or to meet a prejudice in the matter of colour which is based, as we all know, upon ignorance.

My noble friend in front of me, just now expressed a desire to meet the tastes of the public—I was going to suggest that, perhaps, it would be better to say to pander to the tastes and prejudices of the public. I hold the view very strongly that it is up to the Government, and particularly the Ministry of Food, to help to educate the public. And, in that connexion, what are we doing in the schools? Surely, if we really want a properly nourished public we ought to teach our children some of the fundamental dietetic principles which mean so much to their health and strength and to their working capacity in after life. It is being done in overseas countries. It has been done in New Zealand, where I spent five extremely interesting and profitable years. It has been done in the United States and to a large extent in Australia. Why cannot we introduce into our own schools this most valuable and essential form of instruction?

I do not wish to take up any more of your Lordships' time except to repeat what the noble Lord opposite, Lord Glen- tanar, said in advocating what perhaps might popularly be called an experimentum in corpore vili. I quite agree on that. I ventured to suggest, in the last debate, that nothing could be more profitable and more instructive than to carry out an experiment among comparable age groups in comparable schools in this country, if it could be done with bread of, we will say, 85 per cent. extraction and bread of 80 per cent. extraction, and watch the results, physical, mental and otherwise. If it can be done, as it has been done in the case of milk in Glasgow and elsewhere, with most interesting results, surely with proper organization it can be done in the case of bread. I welcome, and I rejoice in, the reply which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has given us to-day to this Resolution, if that reply means, as I hope it does, that we are not going to be necessarily content with 80 per cent. extraction for all time, but that that will be an assured minimum upon which, in the light of greater information and greater human experience, we can build to higher figures if in the best interests of the public it is desirable to do so.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I must join my noble friend Lord Bledisloe in congratulating my noble friend Lord Llewellin on his first speech in this House. The manner of its presentation rejoiced my heart, and I shall look forward to his further utterances. I say that with the more cordiality because I disagree with a very large part of what he said. Perhaps we can look forward to crossing swords with buttons on in the future. I wish to thank the Government and to express my great gratification both at their acceptance of the Resolution, and at the manner of their acceptance, as conveyed by my noble friend the Leader of the House. Like my noble friend Lord Bledisloe I was very glad to hear the announcement that the Ministry of Food was to be continued and that this opportunity should have been taken to make that announcement. I was also very pleased to hear that the report is to be published. But I confess that, after some of the things my noble friend Lord Horder said, I look forward to it with some trepidation. But that is alleviated by two things: first, that the rot is being stopped at 80 per cent.; and, second, if I understood my noble friend the Leader of the House aright, that this 80 per cent. will not necessarily be the permanent standard for bread, and that the Government will have no hesitation in raising the extraction if researches which have been decided upon show the need for that to be done.

On Question, Resolution agreed to.